UNMISS cultural festival promotes unity in diversity, upholds women’s rights

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An UNMISS cultural festival in Jonglei, South Sudan, ends with spirited calls for women's full and equal participation in politics, governance and decision-making. Photo by Angellah Mandoreba/UNMISS

9 May 2024

UNMISS cultural festival promotes unity in diversity, upholds women’s rights

Angellah Mandoreba

JONGLEI - Women in South Sudan have been disproportionately affected by conflict and as this young nation gears up for its first post-independence elections, addressing the social, economic, and political needs of women is a priority.

Diverse stakeholders are making constant efforts to ensure women’s full and equal participation  in the peace process. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is no exception.

Recently, the UN Peacekeeping Mission brought together some 3,000 people at a cultural festival in Bor, Jonglei state to call for peace and the protection of women’s rights.

“The fact that women from different communities have come together to showcase our diverse cultures is a symbol of our capabilities. The message is crystal clear—we want opportunities to be equal players in the peace process,” said Ajok Madut.

Performances from the Nuer, Dinka, Anyuak and Chollo/Shilluk communities rom Upper Nile state made the event vibrant and aimed to action a cultural shift on how society perceives women.

“Although we are from Upper Nile state, Jonglei is our home. We are South Sudanese before anything. Our message is that peaceful coexistence is possible and our rights as South Sudanese women are non-negotiable,” averred Nyabang Unen.

Clarion calls were also made for reconciliation with Jonglei’s neighbouring Greater Pibor where  intercommunal violence characterised by cattle raids and abductions still mar the social fabric.

“We request UNMISS to facilitate a similar event with fellow women from Greater Pibor for us to strengthen our voices and urge male counterparts from both sides to shun revenge attacks and violence,” explained Angelina Opudi.

The need to implement the provision of 35 percent affirmative action for women in letter and spirit was also emphasized. 

State authorities were appreciative of the initiative and for her part, the first female Deputy Governor of Jonglei state, Atong Kuol Manyang, weighed in saying, “Durable peace cannot be achieved without taking women on board. Barriers against women’s socio-economic empowerment must be removed as they continue to hamper progress towards genuine gender equality. Thanks to UNMISS for bringing this to light.”

The gathering, held under the theme, ‘Fostering Gender Equality’ coincided with International Jazz Day to leverage on the power of artistic performances in raising awareness on the rights and role of women in fostering peace and unity in a multicultural society.